EDMONTON — It’s hard to underestimate the importance of Saturday night’s National Lacrosse League game between the Washington Stealth and the Edmonton Rush.
Both teams are in a fight for the final NLL playoff spot and Saturday the Rush played like it. Edmonton earned a 10-9 home victory over the Stealth to improve to 3-7 on the season, while Washington dropped to 3-8 and, at least temporarily, fell out of the league’s final playoff spot. Perhaps even more importantly, the victory gives the Rush the win in the season series, meaning if the two teams finish with identical records Edmonton has the tiebreaker.
“I don’t think we could emphasize it any more,” Stealth head coach Chris Hall said. “It’s blatantly obvious how important the game was.”
The Stealth might have been blown out if it weren’t for the goal keeping of Tyler Richards. The Rush had 57 shots on goal to Washington’s 39, but after giving up two early goals Richards finished with 47 saves.
“Aside from giving up the two early ones, he was stellar the rest of the way,” Hall said.
But in the end, it came back to things that have been haunting the Stealth all season — lack of offensive production and mental errors. Edmonton forced the Stealth into 33 turnovers, while Washington forced the Rush into just 18. Hall also cited several bad penalties that his team took as one of the biggest differences in the game.
“We made three or four critical errors and we took I would say four bad penalties,” Hall said. “We continue to make costly errors.
The Stealth’s offense started the game well, but after taking a 6-4 lead in the second period, only managed three goals the rest of the way.
“Our offense executed poorly after we got a 6-4 lead,” Hall said.
Jeff Zywicki, Athan Iannucci and Dean Hill paced the Stealth’s anemic offense with two goals apiece. Despite several losses, Hill has been a bright spot in recent weeks with his offensive production.
“He’s been giving us a lot,” Hall said. “He’s probably been our most consistent performer on offense the past four or five games.”
Shawn Williams led the way offensively for the Rush with two goals and four assists.
Hall said that the mood in the locker room was somber after the defeat.
“It’s a pretty silent locker room and so it should be,” he said. “We are in a pretty difficult position now.”
With just five games remaining in the regular season the sense of urgency for the Stealth is at an all-time high this season.
“I would think we’ve got to come close to winning out,” Hall said. “We are in a tough spot now. Where are those wins going to come from? Certainly one has to be (today).”
The Stealth host the Minnesota Swarm at 4:45 p.m. today at Comcast Arena.
Rush 10, Stealth 9
1st Quarter — Scoring: EDM — Williams Goal (Ward) 0:50. EDM — Greer Goal (Suddons, Toll) 2:15. WAS — Duch Goal (SH) (Moleski) 6:25. EDM — Greer Goal (PP) (Williams, Ward) 8:00. WAS — Hill Goal (Iannucci, Duch) 9:37. EDM — Small Goal (Wilson, Williams) 13:30. WAS — Iannucci Goal (Beers) 13:54.
2nd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Iannucci Goal (Sedgwick) 2:09. WAS — Hill Goal (Martin) 3:48. WAS — Zywicki Goal (Sedgwick, Duch) 7:07. EDM — Evans Goal 13:10. EDM — Greer Goal (Williams) 14:28.
3rd Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Ratcliff Goal (Duch) 2:20. EDM — Greer Goal (LaFontaine) 4:27. EDM — Small Goal (Evans) 6:44. EDM — Evans Goal (Williams, Ward) 10:39.
4th Quarter — Scoring: WAS — Goal (PP) (Zywicki, Duch) 3:24. EDM — Williams Goal (Small) 8:23. WAS — Zywicki Goal 14:42.